The Baroque Viola and Improvisational Style

Michael Uy : Music

Mentor: Professor Davitt Moroney, Music

The harmonic and practical foundations for the performance of Western Classical music were laid during the Baroque period (c.1600–c.1750). However, little is known about how viola players improvised their parts when playing music written only for a trio, such as two violins and a cello. The main hypothesis is that these musicians were improvising harmonies derived from figures written by the composer above the bass line. Michael will first spend his summer in intensive training on the Baroque viola, in addition to mastering the rules and principles of figured bass. He will then draw on historical treatises written by musicians, as well as material in UC Berkeley’s recently ‘re-found’ and unanalyzed “Tartini collection” of unpublished Italian music manuscripts to construct a better understanding of how the instrument adapted to orchestral settings when there was no specific written viola part.